Best American Music Awards Performances No. 12: Adam Lambert Incenses the Parents Television Council With 'For Your Entertainment' at the 2009 AMAs

Adam Lambert, 2009
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Adam Lambert performs onstage at the 2009 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Nov. 22, 2009 in Los Angeles. 

In honor of the 2017 American Music Awards, Billboard is counting down the best performances from the awards show’s history. Here is No. 12.

“You probably thought I was soft and sweet.” Don’t worry, Adam Lambert, you squashed that notion within the first 45 seconds of your 2009 AMAs performance.

Fans eagerly anticipated Lambert’s show-closing performance, his first live appearance since losing to Kris Allen on the eighth season of American Idol the previous May. The singer took the stage to the ominous piano intro of “For Your Entertainment,” the title track off his debut album, sporting signature sky-high hair and a glittery, studded blazer.

The beat dropped, and then Lambert strutted the stage with a hungry, determined glint in his eye, leading a scantily clad backup dancer across the floor on a leash, and pushing another dancer’s face into his crotch. He tumbled as he traversed the stage’s multiple platforms, playing it off as part of the routine. Then, around the three-and-a-half-minute mark, he marched to the back of the stage and planted a kiss on the lips of his male keyboardist.

The gesture outraged the Parents Television Council and ABC received a deluge of complaints, but eight years later, the performance seems almost tame by today’s standards. Despite the myriad stage antics, Lambert kept the glam-pop stomper on the rails with his stratospheric vocal runs, a testament to his already realized stage presence and artistic vision. The singer released For Your Entertainment the next day; it bowed at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart with 198,000 copies sold in its first week. Clearly, Lambert’s AMAs performance didn’t do his career much harm.

Watch the full performance below.

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The 2017 American Music Awards will broadcast live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.

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